Betting News & Analysis

NFL Betting 2022: Why the Washington Commanders over 7.5 wins is a good bet

Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) takes the field before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the dog days of summer, so naturally, folks like me and the data science group at PFF are knee-deep in building products for next year. Right now, we’re significantly immersed in the data that will help us understand what will happen during the 2022 NFL season better than anyone else.  

When involved in such an exercise, I’m invariably struck by things that surprise me. Such a thing is what I’m writing about today: I like the Washington Commanders this year. 

The Washington football franchise is an excellent example of a team for which the number really matters. We made a bull case for them in 2020, and though not all the reasons we liked them were why they went over their win total and won the NFC East, those bets still cashed. 

Last year, while sitting on a beach in Marco Island, Fla., I fired off the below tweet as I was thinking about the fragility of most NFL teams in what ended up being the league’s second season battling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ryan Fitzpatrick part of the handicap came true in the form of an injury, and the COVID-19 stuff came true in that a seven-win team had to play a Tuesday night game in late December with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback.

This year, I’m a bull again on the Commanders (they’ll always be the Football Team to me) for several reasons.

Firstly, offensive coordinator Scott Turner gave this offense a chance last year, pushing all of the buttons that make for good offense: forcing low box counts, running motion and utilizing play action at top-five rates. The failures of Taylor Heinicke (who finished 32nd in PFF passing grade) and Antonio Gibson (who struggled to just 2.82 yards after contact per attempt) clearly struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness last year.

Secondly, assuming wide receiver Terry McLaurin finds his way back to the nation’s capital, this receiving group promises to be one of the best in football.

McLaurin has been worth every bit as much of the next contract he’s going to get, earning 0.39 WAR per season over the last three years despite having to deal with an absolute potpourri of horribleness at the quarterback position. 

TERRY MCLAURIN: PFF WAR SINCE 2019

Then there is Jahan Dotson, whom Washington drafted after they traded back for the 16th overall pick, even though the betting markets had him going around pick 29.5.

The market that is the NFL draft is usually more “right” than any random opinion is, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that Dotson was deserving of being the 16th overall pick. He played with mediocre quarterback play the entire time he was at Penn State and thrived. Like McLaurin, he’s terrific at getting separation and tracks the deep ball well. He, McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown make for a very good receiving group going into 2022. 

JAHAN DOTSON: PFF WAA SINCE 2018

The elephant in the room, though, is the quarterback spot.

I’m not going to sit here and write that Carson Wentz is an upper-half-of-the-league quarterback at this point in his career. Wentz has very clearly lost the magic that took him to the playoffs in 2019 and even made him an MVP candidate for much of the 2017 season.

Be that as it may, Wentz is the best quarterback Washington will have since Alex Smith replaced Kirk Cousins in 2018. And that bar is incredibly low. One could even argue Wentz cleared it last year as the starter for the Indianapolis Colts, where he finished with the 21st overall PFF passing grade, averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt and threw 27 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. 

The former No. 2 pick recorded more big-time throws (22) than turnover-worthy plays (18) in 2021. He had stretches of play where he was absolutely in the “can’t win with him” category, and the order of those events surely contributed more to his exit from Indianapolis than the average of his games did. He now joins a Washington team with a solid front five (a prerequisite for a competent Wentz offense), a solid playcaller in Scott Turner and the aforementioned weapons above, which are a plus.

The Wentz conversation will always be awkward in a league where a guy is either an unquestioned, max-deal quarterback or a bum worthy of the Baker Mayfield treatment. But make no mistake, the seventh-year quarterback is good enough to guide Washington to a reasonable outcome in 2022. 

https://www.pff.com/nfl/teams/washington-commanders/32/lineup

Lastly, before we get to what to bet, there is the Washington defense, which was the major reason I made the bear case last year.

The group went from facing one of the easiest slates of opposing QBs in 2020 to a much harder group in 2021, but they return to more of an easier slate in 2022 and will face the fourth-easiest schedule in the league — with their average opponent about 0.71 points worse than the average team on a neutral field.

This should give more of an opportunity to a stout defensive line that includes Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and the incomparable Chase Young to get after the quarterback, and it will allow the likes of Kendall Fuller (who earned the third-highest grade among cornerbacks in his return to Washington last year) more chances to create turnovers.

Defense is a volatile entity, and if Washington can simply get the average of the productivity of the last two seasons, they should be contenders in a weak NFC East and weak NFC in general. 

So, how should we profit from this? If you follow me on TikTok, you saw that while I was in Iowa this past weekend, I bet the over 8.5 at +145 at a FanDuel sportsbook.

@pff_eric

#nfl #betting #commanders #fyp #fypシ @profootballfocus

♬ Pompeii – Bastille

Per our simulation, this is a +EV bet, with Washington winning nine or more games 44.3% of the time versus a break-even of 40.8% on a +145 bet.

Our friends at DraftKings have the Commanders with eight wins, -110 to both sides. We have the Commanders winning less than eight wins 40.7% of the time and exactly eight wins 15.0% of the time, to go along with the aforementioned 44.3% of the time winning nine or more.

Taking out the 15% push probability, we have over eight wins hitting 52.1% of the time, which is actually not above the break-even of 52.4% needed to be +EV on a -110 bet. So, shop around. 

Caesar’s has the Commanders at 7.5 wins, with -115 to the over. The break-even on -115 is 53.4%, which is much lower than the probability of 59.3% that Washington wins eight or more games and represents a bigger edge than the FanDuel bet, as well. Over 7.5 wins is +EV until the over price is -145. 

We make the Commanders 36.2% to make the playoffs and 16.4% to win the NFC East, corresponding to +176 and +510, respectively. If you find payouts higher than that, they are worth a shot. 

The bear case for many teams is tough to make this time of year. Our favorite great teams — e.g., the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers — have their brilliance baked into the market.

If you want to bet an over, the goal is to find an underrated collection of things that can all emerge together. And in the case of Washington’s playcaller, quarterback, weapons, defense and schedule, you have it.

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